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Antitrust loophole that may save Amazon a bundle is being debated in Italy.

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Dunya News

ROME According to a legal expert and two sources, Italy’s competition watchdog AGCM is working to plug a legal gap that has allowed a number of businesses to avoid paying antitrust fines and might support Amazon (AMZN.O) in an ongoing appeal.

The record 1.1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) punishment in Italy that the American e-commerce business is contesting before regional administrative courts is one of the issues that the European Commission is keenly monitoring.

According to a 1981 rule that has only recently been applied to antitrust proceedings in Italy, the AGCM is required to notify the firms the AGCM is looking into within 90 days of learning about the suspected anti-competitive activity.

Over the past three years, the Council of State, Italy’s top administrative court, has utilised the statute to invalidate multiple antitrust fines due to a failure to adhere to that deadline.

According to law professor Michele Ainis, who served as an AGCM board member until March, the Council of State’s strategy is gravely flawed since the 90-day time restriction is unsustainable for complicated antitrust matters.

In a phone conversation, he claimed that “the Italian antitrust is the only (competition) agency in Europe subject to this (time) guillotine.” It is practically difficult to meet the deadline because it is so short.

The AGCM imposed the penalty on Amazon in 2021 for allegedly abusing its dominating position in the Italian market to encourage Amazon merchants to utilise its own shipping service.it.

Amazon declared at the time that it will challenge the Italian regulator’s decision and “strongly disagreed” with it.

The AGCM was worried about losing further cases that go before the Council of State on time restriction concerns, including the Amazon fine, according to two persons with knowledge of the matter.

The Council of State is the last court of appeal for decisions made by the AGCM.

According to two further sources, one of the points Amazon has made in its appeal of the 1.1-billion-euro punishment, which is presently before a lower-level regional administrative court, is the problem of the 90-day regulation.

EU INVOLVEMENT

Reuters received a statement from the European Commission stating that it was “aware of the recent developments in the case-law of the Italian courts and of the concerns raised by the Italian competition authority.”

Arianna Podesta, a spokeswoman for the Commission, stated that the EU executive “is in contact with Italian authorities,” but she would not disclose whether or whether Rome has received a letter from Brussels as part of the processes that might result in an EU infringement proceeding.

According to Ainis, if legal action by the EU was required to resolve the dispute, this would be “the worst scenario” for Italy since it would take time and perhaps result in sanctions.

Alternately, the government might enact legislation to address the gap, or Italian administrative courts could ask the EU Court of Justice for guidance.

According to Ainis, any legal action taken by the EU in 2019 would be based on a regulation outlining the rights of national competition authorities.

It was important since Podesta highlighted it in her remarks.

She emphasized the need of giving national competition agencies the time to complete all necessary investigations in complicated instances.

She said, “It is also crucial that national competition authorities have the flexibility to give some cases higher priority than others.”

The Council of State, Amazon Italy, and the AGCM all declined to comment.

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